Have you ever been asked in an interview, “What are your StrengthsFinder test results?”
Since the release of the book Now, Discover Your Strengths in 2001, and the updated edition StrengthsFinder 2.0 in 2008, more than one million people have read the book and taken the online test to learn about their unique set of strengths. This test and numerous others point to a growing interest in discovering our design and pursuing our calling.
I use a different approach in helping people discern their unique gifts and talents and have met with hundreds of people over the years to conduct in-depth vocational profiles.
While many I’ve met know they have unique “strengths” or gifts to uncover, others struggle to believe it.
“I’m useless. I don’t have any gifts or talents to offer,” one woman told me during a vocational profile with her.
Surprisingly, many people feel this way. Many of us have lost our sense of dignity and self-worth. As a result, we are blind to our own inherent creativity and God-given talents.
If we fail to see and believe in the dignity of ourselves and every human being, we will struggle to contribute to God’s call to creativity.
The Source of Our Dignity
Being made in the image of God, we have worth, value, and dignity that cannot be taken away from us. The cultural mandate in Genesis 1:26-28 twice reiterates that human beings are made in the image and likeness of God:
Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our own image according to our likeness…And God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
James 3:9 rebukes those who worship God with their mouths and yet curse someone else made in the likeness of God:
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.
What a failure to see the connection between the worthiness of God and cursing his image! When Christians bless God but curse those made in his image, they contradict themselves. They are failing to see the connection between the worthiness of God and the worth of people.
C.S. Lewis understood that God created every single individual to be unique and to reflect his image. In his famous sermon, “The Weight of Glory,” Lewis said,
There are no ordinary people. You have never met a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations, they are to our life as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.
Lewis lived out this idea that “there are no ordinary people” by writing personal, handwritten letters to everyone who wrote to him, by giving away all his royalties, honoraria, and half his meager salary.
The church has yet to fully mine the implications of the image of God for personal and public life. The dignity, worth, and value of every human being—including yourself—is more than you know.
Once we understand our own dignity and worth, we can begin to see how we are equipped to answer the call to creativity.
The Purpose of God-Given Creativity
We, as image bearers of God, are given a central task in answering the call to creativity. We are told in Genesis 1:26-28 to “rule over” creation. God is the king, but we are his vice-regents. He is the creator, but we are sub-creators. While only God can create something out of nothing, we can create something from something—and are called to this creative task.
“Sub-creators” was the favorite term of J.R.R. Tolkien and Francis Schaeffer, but other scholars use the term “co-creators,” indicating that we participate with God in creative acts.
The kind of rulership or dominion we are to exercise is not to be heavy-handed. Atheists and New Age adherents sometimes say this call to dominion has given Christians the right to rape and pillage the earth. Genesis 2:15 indicates the contrary:
The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.
Mankind was placed in the Garden to care for and keep it. The mandate is to exercise caring stewardship over the created realm—not to use and abuse it as we please.
Creativity plays a central role in developing a beautiful and productive garden, metaphorically speaking, in our own lives and cultures, and requires fresh, inspired thinking.
The call to creativity carries on even after our fall into sin. God’s purpose, through human creativity, is for us to move from the Garden of Eden to the City of God. The book of Genesis starts in a garden, but the book of Revelation ends in a city. Human gifts and creativity find their natural expression in building increasingly complex houses, buildings, walls, roads, etc.
Here’s an illustration of this concept:
The Tree of Life from Genesis reappears in the Holy City found in Revelation 22:1-2. The setting is no longer pastoral, but urban.
This is what we are made to do—use our creativity, our gifts, and our abilities, as extra-ordinary people, to develop the potential of the created order for the glory of God.
Editor’s Note: For help finding and developing the strengths of a young person in your life, consider IFWE’s homeschool elective curriculum developed by Art Lindsley, Understanding God’s Calling, available in the IFWE Bookstore.